Current Affairs 3rd October 2018
WHO guidelines on sanitation and healthThe World Health Organization (WHO) has launched the first global guidelines on sanitation and health.
The new WHO Guidelines on Sanitation and Health summarize the evidence on the effectiveness of a range of sanitation interventions and provide a comprehensive framework for health-protecting sanitation, covering policy and governance measures, implementation of sanitation technologies, systems and behavioural interventions, risk-based management, and monitoring approaches.
Critically, the guidelines articulate the role of the health sector in maximizing the health impact of sanitation interventions.
The guidelines also identify gaps in the evidence-base to guide future research efforts to improve the effectiveness of sanitation interventions.
Need for global guidelines on sanitation and health:
Worldwide, 2.3 billion people lack basic sanitation (with almost half forced to defecate in the open). They are among the 4.5 billion without access to safely managed sanitation services – in other words a toilet connected to a sewer or pit or septic tank that treats human waste. Without proper access, millions of people the world over are deprived of the dignity, safety and convenience of a decent toilet.
Sanitation is a fundamental foundation of human health and development and underpins the core mission of WHO and ministries of health worldwide. WHO’s Sanitation and Health Guidelines are essential to securing health and wellbeing for everyone, everywhere.
Significance of the guidelines:
Poor sanitation is a major factor in transmission of neglected tropical diseases. Billions of people live without access to even the most basic sanitation services.
WHO developed the new guidelines on sanitation and health because current sanitation programmes are not achieving anticipated health gains and there is a lack of authoritative health-based guidance on sanitation.
By adopting WHO’s new guidelines, countries can significantly reduce the diarrhoeal deaths due to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene. For every US $1 invested in sanitation, WHO estimates a nearly six-fold return as measured by lower health costs, increased productivity and fewer premature deaths.
What to study?
For Prelims: Brief overview of guidelines, about WHO, key facts on SBM.
For Mains: Significance and need for global guidelines.
UNESCO site statusGeological Survey of India has chosen heritage locations in Maharashtra and Karnataka for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status. The Geopark tag is akin to that of a ‘World Heritage Site’ for historical monuments that can bring India’s famed geological features to the global stage.
The sites chosen are- Lonar Lake in Maharashtra and St. Mary’s Island and Malpe beach in coastal Karnataka are the GSI’s candidates for UNESCO Global Geopark Network status.
UNESCO Global Geoparks are single, unified geographical areas where sites and landscapes of international geological significance are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and sustainable development.
Their bottom-up approach of combining conservation with sustainable development while involving local communities is becoming increasingly popular. At present, there are 140 UNESCO Global Geoparks in 38 countries.
An aspiring Global Geopark must have a dedicated website, a corporate identity, comprehensive management plan, protection plans, finance, and partnerships for it to be accepted.
Once a UNESCO Global Geopark, always a UNESCO Global Geopark?
No, a UNESCO Global Geopark is given this designation for a period of four years after which the functioning and quality of each UNESCO Global Geopark is thoroughly re-examined during a revalidation process.
As part of the revalidation process, the UNESCO Global Geopark under review has to prepare a progress report and a field mission will be undertaken by two evaluators to revalidate the quality of the UNESCO Global Geopark. If, on the basis of the field evaluation report, the UNESCO Global Geopark continues to fulfil the criteria the area will continue as a UNESCO Global Geopark for a further four-year period (so-called “green card”).
If the area no longer fulfils the criteria, the management body will be informed to take appropriate steps within a two-year period (so-called “yellow card”). Should the UNESCO Global Geopark not fulfil the criteria within two years after receiving a “yellow card”, the area will lose its status as a UNESCO Global Geopark (so-called “red card”).
What is the Global Geoparks Network?
The Global Geoparks Network (GGN), of which membership is obligatory for UNESCO Global Geoparks, is a legally constituted not-for-profit organisation with an annual membership fee. The GGN was founded in 2004 and is a dynamic network where members are committed to work together and exchange ideas of best practise and join in common projects to raise the quality standards of all products and practises of a UNESCO Global Geopark. While the GGN as a whole comes together every two years, it functions through the operation of regional networks, such as the European Geoparks Network that meets twice a year to develop and promote joint activities.
Difference between UNESCO Global Geoparks, Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites:
UNESCO Global Geoparks, together with the other two UNESCO site designations Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites, give a complete picture of celebrating our heritage while at the same time conserving the world’s cultural, biological and geological diversity, and promoting sustainable economic development.
While Biosphere Reserves focus on the harmonised management of biological and cultural diversity and World Heritage Sites promote the conservation of natural and cultural sites of outstanding universal value, UNESCO Global Geoparks give international recognition for sites that promote the importance and significance of protecting the Earth’s geodiversity through actively engaging with the local communities.
In case an aspiring UNESCO Global Geopark includes a World Heritage Site or Biosphere Reserve, a clear justification and evidence has to be provided on how UNESCO Global Geopark status will add value by being both independently branded and in synergy with the other designations.
Lonar lake is an ancient circular lake created by a meteorite strike in Maharashtra. It is the only known meteorite crater in basaltic rock. Lonar crater became a geo-heritage site in 1979. It is relatively young geologically, at just 50,000 years old.
Mary’s Island, declared a national geo-heritage site in 1975, is estimated to be an 88-million-year-old formation that goes back to a time when Greater India broke away from Madagascar.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: UNESCO Global Geopark Network status- key facts, criteria for selection and sites in India.
International Solar AlliancePrime Minister Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the first Assembly of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) in New Delhi. The same event also marked the inauguration of the second IORA Renewable Energy Ministerial Meeting, and the second Global RE-Invest (Renewable Energy Investors’ Meet and Expo).
The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.
Objectives: The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
What it does? As an action-oriented organisation, the ISA brings together countries with rich solar potential to aggregate global demand, thereby reducing prices through bulk purchase, facilitating the deployment of existing solar technologies at scale, and promoting collaborative solar R&D and capacity building.
When it entered into force? When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC), is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean.
The IORA is a regional forum, tripartite in nature, bringing together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.
The IORA is an association of 21 countries and 7 dialogue partners which have identified 6 areas of cooperation including medicinal plants. The Coordinating Secretariat of IORA is located at Ebene, Mauritius.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: ISA- key facts, significance and India’s potential.
Soil moisture mapWith the rabi season around the corner, a countrywide forecast has been prepared. This forecast, following a joint exercise by IIT Gandhinagar and the India Meteorological Department (IMD), for the first time, provides a country-wide soil moisture forecast at seven and 30-day lead times.
How was it developed?
The experts used the ‘Variable Infiltration Capacity’ model to provide the soil moisture prediction.
The product, termed ‘Experimental Forecasts Land Surface Products’, is available on the IMD website. It has been developed using the hydrological model that takes into consideration soil, vegetation, land use and land cover among other parameters.
Highlights of the findings:
In Bundelkhand, most farmers keep their land fallow or just grow some fodder crop during the kharif season since the rains are unpredictable and there could be extended dry spells after sowing. They then mainly cultivate the rabi crop using the soil moisture left behind by the monsoon rains.
It is a similar trend in Bihar, in low lying areas of Seemanchal and Kosi belt, where no crop is grown during Kharif because of inundated lands. This means that if there is not enough rainfall in one or two months, these are regions which will demand heavy irrigation whether that comes from groundwater or surface water storage (reservoirs).
Based on observed conditions at present, Gujarat, parts of Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and parts of Andhra Pradesh are deficient in terms of soil moisture right now.
Significance and the need for data on soil moisture:
Soil moisture is crucial for agriculture since it directly affects crop growth and how much irrigation is required for the area. It is because crucial information needed for agriculture is not revealed only through rainfall data.
Soil moisture gives us more information on what is needed for crop growth in different parts of the country. Besides, timely soil moisture forecasts will help target interventions, in terms of seed varieties for better planning in agriculture.
What to study?
For Prelims: ISA, Soil Moisture Map- significance and need.
For Mains: Renewable energy and its significance, India’s leadership in the sector.
Ombudsman schemeThe Reserve Bank of India has tightened the banking ombudsman scheme with the objective to strengthen the grievance redressal mechanism for customers.
The banking regulator has asked all commercial banks having 10 or more banking outlets to have an independent internal ombudsman (IO) to review customer complaints that are either partly or fully rejected by the banks.
The IO shall, inter alia, examine customer complaints which are in the nature of deficiency in service on the part of the bank, that are partly or wholly rejected by the bank.
As banks should internally escalate complaints that are not fully redressed to their respective IOs before conveying the final decision to the complainant, customers need not approach the IO directly.
Internal Ombudsman Scheme:
The Internal Ombudsman Scheme of 2018 mandates banks to grant a fixed term of three to five years, which cannot be renewed, to the IO.
The IO can be removed only with prior approval from RBI. The remuneration would have to be decided by the customer sub-committee of the board and not by any individual.
The Ombudsman Scheme of 2018 covers appointment/tenure, roles and responsibilities, procedural guidelines and oversight mechanism for the IO, among others.
The implementation of IO Scheme 2018 will be monitored by the bank’s internal audit mechanism apart from regulatory oversight by RBI.
Who is a Banking Ombudsman?
Banking ombudsman is a quasi judicial authority, created to resolve customer complaints against banks relating to certain services provided by them.
The Ombudsman is a senior official, who has been appointed by the Reserve Bank of India to address grievances and complaints from customers, pertaining deficiencies in banking services.
It covers all kinds of banks including public sector banks, Private banks, Rural banks as well as co-operative banks.
What to study?
For Prelims and Mains: Highlights and significance of the scheme.
Drug-resistant superbug spreadingAustralian scientists have warned that Staphylococcus epidermidis, a superbug resistant to all known antibiotics that can cause “severe” infections or even death is spreading undetected through hospital wards across the world.
Researchers discovered three variants of the multidrug-resistant bug in samples from 10 countries, including strains in Europe that cannot be reliably tamed by any drug currently on the market.
The bacteria, known as Staphylococcus epidermidis, is related to the better-known and more deadly MRSA superbug.
Where it is found? It’s found naturally on human skin and most commonly infects the elderly or patients who have had prosthetic materials implanted, such as catheters and joint replacements.
Who is more vulnerable? It can be deadly, but it’s usually in patients who already are very sick in hospital. it can be quite hard to eradicate and the infections can be severe.
Concerns: Some strains of the bug can make a small change in DNA that can lead to resistance to two of the most common antibiotics.
What is a superbug?
A superbug, also called multiresistant, is a bacterium that carries several resistance genes. These are resistant to multiple antibiotics and are able to survive even after exposure to one or more antibiotics.
What causes them to mutate like that?
Like any living organism, bacteria can mutate as they multiply. Also like any living organism, bacteria have a strong evolutionary drive to survive. So, over time, a select few will mutate in particular ways that make them resistant to antibiotics. Then, when antibiotics are introduced, only the bacteria that can resist that treatment can survive to multiply further, proliferating the line of drug-resistant bugs.
Why is Antibiotic Resistance a Big Deal?
The discovery of antibiotics less than a century ago was a turning point in public health that has saved countless lives. Although antibiotic resistance develops naturally with normal bacterial mutation, humans are speeding it up by using antibiotics improperly. According to a research, now, 2 million people a year in the US develop antibiotic-resistant infections, and 23,000 of them die of those infections.
Why is the medical community worried?
Basically, superbugs are becoming more powerful and widespread than ever. Medical experts are afraid that we’re one step away from deadly, untreatable infections, since the mcr-1 E.coli is resistant to that last-resort antibiotic Colistin. Antibiotic-resistance is passed relatively easily from one bacteria to the next, since it is transmitted by way of loose genetic material that most bacteria have in common.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is afraid of a post-antibiotic world, where loads of bacteria are superbugs. Already, infections like tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and pneumonia are becoming harder to treat with typical antibiotics.
What Can We Do?
First step would be to limit antibiotic use. If a patient has a virus, for instance, an antibiotic won’t work, so doctors shouldn’t prescribe antibiotics even if the patient insists. And when patients do need antibiotics, it’s important to make sure they take the full course to kill off every last infection-causing germ. Otherwise the strong survive, mutate, and spread. As a society, curbing antibiotic use in healthy animals used in human food production is another important step.
According to few recent studies, nanotechnology holds the key to stopping antibiotic-resistant bacteria and the deadly infections they cause. Scientists have developed light-activated nanoparticles — each roughly 20,000 times smaller than the thickness of a single human hair and have shown in lab tests that these “quantum dots” are more than 90% effective at wiping out antibiotic-resistant germs like Salmonella, E. coli and Staphylococcus. With the emergence of this Colistin-resistant E.coli, the medical community is going to be working harder and faster to contain superbugs and develop new treatments for infections.
The global community needs to urgently address the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in an actionable manner, and fast-track research on the next generation of drugs.
What to study?
For Prelims: What are superbugs, brief overview of known superbugs.
For Mains: MDR- causes, concerns and solutions.
Purchasing Managers Index (PMI)India’s manufacturing economy recorded an improvement in growth during September amid firmer gains in new orders, output and employment.
The Nikkei India Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 52.2 in September from 51.7 in August. A reading above 50 indicates an expansion while one below 50 denotes a contraction.
What is a PMI?
PMI or a Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) is an indicator of business activity — both in the manufacturing and services sectors. It is a survey-based measures that asks the respondents about changes in their perception of some key business variables from the month before. It is calculated separately for the manufacturing and services sectors and then a composite index is constructed.
How is the PMI derived?
The PMI is derived from a series of qualitative questions. Executives from a reasonably big sample, running into hundreds of firms, are asked whether key indicators such as output, new orders, business expectations and employment were stronger than the month before and are asked to rate them.
How does one read the PMI?
A figure above 50 denotes expansion in business activity. Anything below 50 denotes contraction. Higher the difference from this mid-point greater the expansion or contraction. The rate of expansion can also be judged by comparing the PMI with that of the previous month data. If the figure is higher than the previous month’s then the econ-omy is expanding at a faster rate. If it is lower than the previous month then it is growing at a lower rate.
What are its implications for the economy?
The PMI is usually released at the start of the month, much before most of the official data on industrial output, manufacturing and GDP growth becomes available. It is, therefore, considered a good leading indicator of economic activity. Economists consider the manufacturing growth measured by the PMI as a good indicator of industrial output, for which official statistics are released later. Central banks of many countries also use the index to help make decisions on interest rates.
What does it mean for financial markets?
The PMI also gives an indication of corporate earnings and is closely watched by investors as well as the bond markets. A good reading enhances the attractiveness of an economy vis-a- vis another competing economy.